The dog days of summer provide lots of opportunities for fun with your dog but the hot months can be uncomfortable—even dangerous—for pets. Here’s how to take care of your pets during the hotter days.
It’s difficult enough simply to cope with rising temperatures, let alone humidity, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with the double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages. Keeping pets safe during the summer is easier if you know what the risks are and how to manage them for your dog’s safety. First, let us see what are the common hazards in this weather and how to prevent them:
Dehydration: Prevent dehydration by providing your dog with unrestricted access to fresh and cool water both indoors and outside. Ice cubes and frozen chicken encourage your dog to take in more fluids and help keep him cool. You can also feed your dog wet dog food during the summer to increase his fluid intake.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a serious risk to dog’s health – in worst case scenarios, it can be fatal. You can prevent heat stroke by restricting your pet’s exercise during the hottest hours of the day (early morning or late evening are the best times for exercise during the summer), by making sure he is well hydrated, providing cool places for him to relax, providing opportunities to swim, cooling mats, and by never leaving your dog unattended in the car during the day.
Burned pads: Under the summer sun, asphalt on sidewalks and streets can heat to a temperature that can burn a dog’s paws. To avoid scorched paws, walk your dog very early in the morning or in the late evening when the streets have cooled off. Always put your hand down on the asphalt for about thirty seconds – if you find it too hot, it is too hot for your dog to walk on without hurting his paws.
Parasites: This is the season for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes; which can be life threatening or cause self-mutilating behaviors. Feeding your dog a high quality diet, without preservatives or chemicals will build his immune system, making him generally more resistant to parasite infestation. There are a wide variety of preventatives on the market, including chemical spot-on treatments, repellent shampoos, essential oils, and flea/tick collars. Cleaning your house frequently and keeping your dog well groomed will also reduce the risk of parasite infestation.
Sunburn: Dogs can burn in the sun just like people can. White, light-colored, and thinly coated dogs have an increased risk of sunburn. Sunburn causes pain, itching, peeling, and other problems. To prevent sunburn, apply a waterproof sunscreen formulated for babies or pets. Be sure to cover the tips of your dog’s ears, nose, skin around its mouth and back.
Seasonal allergies: Your dog may be allergic to one or more seasonal items, which include fleas, grass and various plants, and mold. If you suspect your dog may have seasonal allergies, is scratching and perhaps losing fur. Keep such things at bay. In case, you think that your dog is behaving abnormally, seek help. Here are a few danger signs to watch out:
Watch the humidity: It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet. Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”
Symptoms to watch out: Keep an eye on your pets during particularly hot spells; watch for indications that they are having difficulty with the heat. Signs that your dog is in distress due to heat include vomiting or drooling, fatigue, heavy panting or obvious difficulty breathing, diarrhea, or seizures.
Battling heat stroke: If you feel your dog is suffering from heat stroke, then move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck, and chest or run cool water (not cold) over her. Let him drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
Seek a vet: Even if you believe your pet has suffered from only a mild case of heat stroke, and you feel you’ve treated it successfully, you should still get your pet to a veterinarian. Heat stroke can potentially cause serious internal problems that may not become obvious for some time, possibly even until days after the event.
Cooling off tips for your pooch
Time for a swim: When you are going for a swim in the morning, take your dog along. Since they are exposed to harsh rays throughout the day, it is important for dogs to take a dip in the water as well. And what’s more? Dogs are great swimmers themselves, and you don’t have to worry about them. But, do keep a close watch.
Provide plenty of water, plenty of shade: Dehydration in dogs and cats is a real possibility during the summer, especially if your pet is the type to run and play outside for extended periods without drinking sufficient water. Telltale signs of dehydration include dry gums, loss of skin elasticity, excessive drooling. Don’t let this happen. Give your active pet plenty of playtime breaks in the shade with access to fresh water.
Never leave ‘your dog’ in the car: You may think leaving your pet in a car for a few minutes is no big deal, but it can lead to heat stroke. In bright sunshine, your car acts like an oven, becoming much hotter inside than the outside air. So, either take your pet with you or leave him at home during shopping trips.
Don’t expose them to harsh sun rays: It is a must to take your dogs out for a walk but take them out early morning If you plan to take them for a jog along in the evening, make sure you take them out when the sun has set. Remember to keep them in the shade always. Be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, which are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, which typically have difficulty breathing. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.
Keep a check on your dog’s diet: While we are busy eating watery fruits to keep ourselves hydrated during summer, it is important to keep a check on your dog’s diet also. Make them drink water regularly, and include summer foods to cool them off.
Groom your dogs: It is important to groom your dogs. You can trim their fur to keep their body light but never shave them.
Cool your pet inside and out: Keep your pet from overheating with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat. If your dog doesn’t find baths stressful, one can also go for a cooling soak.
Keep the pet cool: Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) So, always keep them in a room with cooler or air-conditioner.
(Dr Ashwani Kumar Singh, veterinary physician & surgeon is intern at Government Veterinary Hospital, Bharatpur, Rajasthan).